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In an apartment on the second floor overlooking the seacoast, Emilie Simon is singing her Desert song as the ceiling fan hummed along. There is one pink lamp, casting on the floor a singular shadow. A woman curls up in the corner of her bed. Her nest of hair is resting on the belly of her pillow. A book, L’Étranger by French philosopher Albert Camus, lays open to pg. 113.

***

The phone buzzed on Friday while she was wearing her favorite two-piece dress, blanc et noir. She was squatting on the kitchen floor, next to a pair of pumps, peeling a bag of red onions. When the layers of onion came off their plump round bodies the stinging sensation always drove her on the verge of tears, but she never cried. She blinked twice, hard, and placed the phone between her left cheek and shoulder with ease. Years of work as a secretary in a high-end fashion boutique have made it an easy thing to do.

Bonjour?

“Hey! It’s me.”

Upon hearing his voice, she picked up a raw onion, examined it in her hand, and took a bite. A drop of onion juice trickled down the curve of the vegetable and onto her arm as the instant burning shot up her nose and left her with a bitter foulness in her mouth. She paused, and then said:

“I didn’t expect you back in town so soon.”

They met some years ago at the restaurant. They coincidentally ordered the same miserable dessert – the name escapes her now. It was overly sweet, coated in grains of raw sugar and chunks of caramel, but for some reason she liked it. She just graduated college that May, full of self-importance, ready to take on the world. Naïve, that’s what he called her.

Naïve, he wouldn’t dare call her that now.

Over the phone, he asked:

“Hello? You still there?”

She opened her eyes and pulled back from thoughts streaming, playing like old broken records. She pushed some hair behind her ears, exhibiting a pair of sparkly studs. She heard herself breath through the phone. He said:

“I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow then, at our place.”

“Tomorrow?” Her eyes shifted to the desk where several mason jars of wilted flowers sat, dried up and wrinkled from being uncared for; layers of thick decompose lined the bottom. She picked up a cloth purse, beige with purple and green patterns, and fingered the contents inside. The half bitten onion rolled quietly into her lap.

“Yes, tomorrow. It‘s the friggin’ weekend, baby!” he mocked, “why, you have plans?”

She hesitated, “no, of course not.”

Of course not.

She stood up and thrust the onion into the trash bin. It’s just that she hated weekends.

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